One of several ways to measure computer performance is by calculating how many floating point calculations (flops) it can do per second. 2.0 times 2.0 equals 4.0 is an example of one floating point operation. If a computer can do a million of these calculations it is said to be able to do one Megaflop. A billion would be a Gigaflop and a Trillion would be a Teraflop.
The first supercomputer capable of a Teraflop was ASCI Red and was used to develop nuclear weapons by simulating the reactions. It went online in 1996 and was decommissioned about 10 years later, which is a long time for a computer. (for a lot more on this idea please see Why Bring Your Own Device To School Is Inevitable)
Microsoft is starting to hint at what will be in the next generation of XBox video game systems. According to Gizmodo the next gen machine will have an 8 core processor capable of 1.2 Teraflops of performance. It will come full of all sorts of new gadgets such as an upgraded Kinect camera system and perhaps even this new technology called IllumiRoom.
Here’s a video of how it might work in action.
So what are the implications of all this? So far I have thought of three that affect education.
- When you couple this amount of computing power with fiber optic Gigabit speed Internet, you will be able to create a virtual super computer grid. This will allow school kids to simulate things that were only possible in government labs.
- The level of computation here will allow a lot more than just great graphics, it will allow better virtual personal assistants like Siri but next gen.
- Students used to playing a video game like this where the whole room becomes the game are going to be even less interested in listening to a teacher lecture for an hour.
Oh, and if you think all that is impressive, the Playstation 4 will have 1.84 teraflops.
A supercomputer as a child’s plaything. Awesome!